How to: Become a wildlife biologist
THIS JOB APPEALS TO THOSE who are passionate about the outdoors, and to those who feel more than a little wild themselves. But aside from the romance, what can you really expect from this career?
There are many types of wildlife biologists. Some sit at a desk all day. If you prefer a job in the field, look into field biologist or research biologist positions.
Fifty years ago if you knew the wilderness and had a passion for hunting, you could’ve walked out of high school and easily procured a job. Not anymore. Today, the educational requirements require a minimum of a bachelors degree, and many agencies won’t consider hiring you if you don’t have a masters degree for research biologist positions.
When researching specific schools, dig deep to see what they have to offer you. Do they have a strong research program where there are internship opportunities? What kind of job can you expect from a four year college degree? Some schools offer very specific programs tailored to wildlife management and wildlife biologist positions, while others offer more generalized programs such as Environmental Studies. Take a long range view of their program and what it has to offer you.
The key to getting a permanent position as a wildlife biologist is racking up as much diversity, or perhaps, specificity, in field experience opportunities as you can. It all depends on where your interests lie. If you are in school look into the various jobs that master’s students in your program of study might offer. Many times they need apprentices in order to help them with their research, and can pay you a small stipend. Don’t neglect volunteer positions either, you can add these work skills to your resume. Do a good job and you will have an excellent reference that you could add to your resume.
While you are in school think about taking courses in writing, journalism, or education. These classes may set you ahead of the pack. Many people think that dealing with the public is a remote possibility when you have a job in a faraway place as a field biologist. Think again. The public is hungry for your knowledge and expertise, and they want to hear what you have to say. Also, many people are very opinionated when it comes to managing wildlife populations and will want you to consider their ideas. You will often be in the position to educate the public about sound scientific research and practices. If you can demonstrate that knowledge to an employer, you are golden.
How Much Will I Make?
You probably won’t get rich as a biologist, and when you’re just starting out you might not make much more then minimum wage. But it’s a passion for the work and freedom in the field that will give you the greatest job satisfaction. State agencies tend to pay the most, while the federal government’s payscale is lower. Non-profit agencies, such as The Nature Conservancy, also have limited budgets and do not pay well.
Where You Can Find Work
Competition for jobs is fierce. Yet you will be surprised to learn that there are a wide variety of places to find work. Consulting firms such as Griffith Wildlife Biology, hire wildlife biologists for specific projects. In America, look into state government job listings. The federal government also hires wildlife biologists. Don’t neglect opportunities closer to home either, such as local conservation agencies.
Another good source of job opportunities is through the Wildlife Society. Also, check out Ranger 146′s site, where you can get the lowdown on the life of a seasonal wildlife biologist along with job listings. If you want to work overseas, check into World Wildlife Fund or International Wildlife Coalition. But don’t stop there. You will have to root around like a wild boar in the muck to uncover a good position.